By now, one thing should be clear: in the best and most successful companies—like those profiled in Chapters 4 to 8—culture infuses and influences everything, and it is constantly nurtured and reinforced. In these companies, there is a formal statement of company values, and when asked, employees can identify them (in some cases, as with Ritz-Carlton, employees can recite the values verbatim). In these best-of-breed companies, not only can employees recite the values but they actually live them, and as a result customers can see them. Values are not just words on paper. Every process in the company—communication, decision making, planning, training, performance management, and so forth—reflects and supports the values. There is constant and fairly open communication throughout the company—up, down, and across—and the content of at least some of this communication is directly about the company’s values. In these companies, there is also ongoing emphasis on the extent to which the culture is being lived by all employees. As a result, culture, even though intangible, has become a true strategic asset for these companies.
How does this happen? The answer is that those companies that are highly effective and successful, those recognizing that culture is a very important asset, have leaders who understand and are committed to managing this asset. In this chapter, we focus on leadership of the culture management process. We also examine specific cultural transformations that leaders may face and need to manage. As will be discussed in this chapter,